This event — June 20, 2018 — represents a fabulous ‘photo op’ for Trump, and it results in a Pyrrhic victory for oppressed and victimized mothers and their minor children who are fleeing horrific conditions in their homelands of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala -the so-called Northern Triangle.

Read between the lines of Trump’s Executive Order and you will find little change in the draconian American policy of abusing and torturing women and children.

Trump and his administration have embraced a tactical wholesale approach to focus, apprehend and detain the most vulnerable – and least dangerous – people who seek asylum in the U.S.

Trump has – and continues to – proclaim that “..most immigrant families and minors from Central America who arrive unlawfully at the border cannot be detained together or removed together – only released.  These are crippling loopholes that cause family separation which we don’t want.”

Probably not true, and even if true, completely irrelevant.

Statistics tell us that:  (1) Immigrants who come to United States seeking asylum from horrible conditions in their countries of origin are generally women with minor children who pose little to no criminal or other risk to the U.S.;  (2) Immigrants who come to the U.S. seeking work to support families left behind in their country of origin are predominantly men who strive to make enough money to send for the rest of their family to bring them into a positive environment.

Yes, each of these scenarios illustrates a likely violation of current U.S. immigration laws.

However, let’s not lose sight that the foundation of immigration laws of the U.S. is the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, sometimes known as the McCarran–Walter Act.  Yes, 1952.

Parts of that Act remain in place today.  It has been amended several times and was modified substantially by the Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965.  Yes, 1965.

No doubt, there exist a small percentage of people who illegally enter the U.S. with nefarious intent. It seems that most of these ‘bad actors’ do not travel with children; are not female; and do not enter over the southern border.

If Trump — and his band of complicit Republican cronies – really desire to improve our national security through better immigration strategy and policy, they need to focus on fact-based, root cause analysis, and to invest in solutions which utilize “evidence-based targeting,” an approach which uses objective data to focus limited resources toward those individuals who pose the highest risk of danger to the U.S.

Evidence-Based Targeting is a strategic approach which requires planning; careful research; and a blind approach to race, religion, gender, national origin or other irrelevant factors.

Yes, Mr. Trump, we are in lock-step with you on secure borders.  We – even those of us who are not registered Republicans – demand secure borders and we want to have modern policies and procedures in place which keep bad actors out of the U.S.

That said, we need to ask you to stop acting as a bully, stop picking on defenseless women and children, and start focusing on Evidence-Based Targeting to help protect our domestic security.

And, concurrently, it would be really great if you could work with Congress to modernize that 1952 McCarran–Walter Act which probably made sense back then, but seems to need some tweaks to address the huge demographic changes which have occurred since then.

Please, Mr. Trump:  Stop the puerile ‘Beavis & Butt-Head’ rhetoric and start acting like a leader.

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Another branch of our armed forces?

I just can’t imagine an Industrial Engineer who would look at the current structure of the Pentagon and the U.S. military and not conclude that we have an extraordinarily inefficient approach to defense.

Air, land and sea.  Sounds good, right?

Except that we have 5 branches which overlap, compete with each other directly and indirectly, and don’t always communicate well.

Now, the Master Obfuscator and Distracter-in-Chief wants to start a 6th branch!

I can only conclude that The Donald is running wild trying to divert attention away from some of his self-created demons: Immigration; His war on Canada; His new love affair with Kim Jong Un; A ‘tax reform’ plan which will leave America bankrupt; The deterioration and ultimate disintegration of the American health care system; The ‘Russia thing’; Cyber security intrusions and risks across the entire U.S. public and private sector; Rapidly deteriorating physical infrastructure across the U.S.; Escalating gun violence, the NRA and 21st century gun control; Mueller and his ‘Russian Witch Hunt Hoax’; Stormy Daniels; and Dozens of other critical issues which need to be addressed in an honest, responsible and strategic fashion.

Donald J. Trump has the attention span of a gnat, the moral turpitude of a ‘made man’ and the integrity of a Carnival Barker.  Despite that, he is our POTUS, and he continues to dash along his path toward fooling many of the people most of the time.

How true, yet how trite.

People kill people, whether with their hands, a blunt object, a knife or a gun.

That said, a person armed with a .22 caliber bolt action rifle and a 10 round magazine is much less likely to engage in a mass shooting than, say, a person armed with an AR-15 rifle with a 30 round magazine.

The difference in circumference between the .22 cal and the .223 cal is negligible. The design differences are substantial.

The .22 is a rimfire cartridge, and its design goes back over 100 years.  The .22 Long Rifle cartridge is the most commonly used ammunition in the world today.

The .223 is a centerfire cartridge, designed in the early 1960’s specifically for military purposes as ammunition for the M-16 rifle (the military version of the AR-15).

To the uninformed, there is not much difference between the .22 bolt action rifle commonly used for target shooting and hunting, and the .223 semi-automatic rifle which was designed for military use.

To the Rambo Wanna-Be who is planning his domestic massacre, the differences are extraordinary.

After all, how many civilians can you take out with a .22 LR equipped with a 10 round magazine, even if you are shooting copper-plated hollow point bullets? [We don’t have an answer to this question because there is no record of a shooting rampage involving .22 rifles.]

We know that the AR-15 rifle (and variants) have been the weapon of choice in the majority of firearm massacres in the U.S. over the past decade.

There have been more than 30 school shootings in the U.S. since the December 2012 execution of 20 elementary school students and 6 adults at Sandy Hook in Newtown, CT.

If we were to outlaw the production, sale or possession of AR-15 style weapons in the U.S. tomorrow, would we immediately change this paradigm?  Immediately:  No.

Over the longer term (say, 3, 5, 7 years)?  Almost certainly.

The AR-15 (and similar weapons) have no place in a civil society, except perhaps for military and limited law enforcement use.

Please don’t stand by and wait for someone to go hunting with an AR-15 at the school which your children or grandchildren attend.  Step up and demand common sense gun regulations.  Now.

Several recent studies by independent researchers confirm that nonprofits are significant positive contributors to the American economy.

When we observe aggregate national statistics relative to not-for-profit organizations we find that NFPs contribute significantly to regional economies – estimated overall at 12.5% –through wages paid, retail and wholesale purchases, and professional service contracts.

Measured by total employment and jobs created, NFP organizations punch well above their weight class, primarily due to the trade-off employees in the NFP sector make between the expected job-security in the NFP sector vs. the higher risks inherent in private-sector employment.  Several sources estimate that jobs in the NFP sector pay about 75% of comparable jobs in the for-profit sector.

Public service, whether (1) in government as an elected official, or as a civil service employee, or (2) in the not-for-profit sector, is heavily supported and subsidized by the American people.  As such, we have a right to expect that the people who are employed within the public service sector are working for the greater good of society, and that they have made a conscious decision to accept a reasonable and customary package of salary and benefits in exchange for the low-risk profile of working in the public sector.

According to a study by Charity Navigator, America’s go-to charity evaluator, the median CEO compensation among not-for-profit organizations in 2015 was $123,462.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is a not-for-profit corporation primarily supported by membership fees of public-minded citizens and clubs. Its primary stated purpose is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, especially the political, civil and inalienable rights of the American people to keep and bear arms as a common law and Constitutional right of the individual citizen.

Wayne LaPierre, EVP and CEO of the National Rifle Association is one of 10 highly compensated executives of the not-for-profit NRA who receives in excess of $400,000 in annual compensation.

LaPierre’s total reported compensation in 2016 was $1,422,339.

It really is not clear if or how Wayne LaPierre or the NRA is working for the greater good of society.

In the April 2018 issue of The American Rifleman, Mr. LaPierre had this to say,

American freedom faces no greater threat than from our academic institutions, where the most basic fundamental principles upon which our nation was founded are aggressively attacked by extreme socialists posing as honest professors.”

LaPierre goes on to explain,

“The socialist takeover of our college campuses is part of a massive wave of socialism that, if left unchecked, threatens all of our firearms freedom and all of the American liberty that we cherish and have fought hard to defend.”

LaPierre’s goal seems to be protecting the impressionable minds of our young people from the legions of ‘liberal college professors’ whom he believes have infiltrated colleges and universities across the U.S. to promote their ‘lust for a nation of socialism’.

His call to action seems to be woven into this concluding remark,

“… and then they’ll come for us… for our freedom and for our guns. That is the tsunami of socialism that threatens every law-abiding gun owner and freedom-loving American in this country.”

If it is true that the core NRA membership (as has been reported from various sources) is white, male, rural and relatively less educated, then this approach may be on target to energize that base.  Yet, it doesn’t seem to correlate with the broader wants and needs of our 21st century society.

Before I go further, I should explain my background.  I grew up on University Avenue in Buffalo, NY, just down the street from the University of Buffalo, so I was exposed to college professors from a young age.  In fact, my mother was one of them.

When I was a young lad, I learned that ‘liberal’ was a method of gathering, analyzing and digesting information from a variety of sources, and then using that information to help guide the individual to an informed and independent conclusion.

I also learned at a young age that people who self-identify as liberal tend to value liberty and equality; and they generally support ideas and concepts such as: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments, gender equality and international cooperation.

Today, as a mature adult, I value the critical thinking skills which were introduced to me by a rather broad array of teachers and adult role models, from elementary school through graduate school.

I am an NRA member and a gun owner.  I don’t want to take away anyone’s legal firearm, nor do I want to impede the rights of my fellow Americans to own and responsibly use those firearms which are generally acceptable in a civil society.

That said:  I also believe that we can proudly bear our arms and have responsible and common sense firearm laws. The safety of our children and citizens doesn’t need to be at odds with gun ownership.

A legitimate and responsible debate over 21st Century common sense gun regulations will never take place if we demonize and vilify one group against another, one political position against the other.

When we have individuals and organizations which are supported and subsidized by American taxpayers conjuring up and promoting controversial and potentially incendiary commentary — aren’t we creating a deck stacked against a common sense discussion?

How is it that we – all of us taxpayers in the U.S. – are required to subsidize and support Wayne LaPierre in his partisan and razor-focused quest to support the gun industry, when some of us would prefer a more mainstream, middle-of-the-road approach?

A fair and equitable approach to ensuring that each of us – as Americans – continue to enjoy those unalienable rights with which we have been endowed, among these Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness should never be linked to the brand, caliber or style of the Arms which are the right of the people to keep and bear.

The NRA began in 1871 as a public benefit organization — just after the Civil War — by organizing classes designed to teach gun safety and marksmanship to those individuals who wished to follow their 2nd amendment right to gun ownership.

Over the ensuing 147 years, the NRA mission has evolved such that its public service component – gun safety – is no longer a priority when measured in fiscal terms.  Fact:  with 2016 total reported expenses of $413 Million, the NRA reported spending (1) $77 Million on Legislative programs; and (2) $48 Million on firearm training.

The NRA states in its financial statements, “Firearms safety is the cornerstone of everything the NRA does for its members.”

I hope to leave my readers with several questions to ponder:

  1. If ‘firearms safety is the cornerstone’ why does the NRA spend more on legislative programs than on firearm training?
  2. For 2016, the NRA disclosed a total annual payroll of $68.3 Million, with $7.8 Million paid to just 10 executives. This is an organization which is tax-exempt.  Does that seem reasonable to you?
  3. If ‘firearms safety is the cornerstone’ why does the NRA continue to fight common-sense gun legislation aimed to create a safer environment for both gun owners and bystanders?

Common Sense Legislation?

March 12, 2018

This Old Walrus just doesn’t get it.  We don’t rely on the Mattachine Society to write legislation on sodomy with young boys.  We don’t (usually) weigh in with the Russian Mafia to write our laws on money laundering. So, why is it that the NRA has become the singular expert – the ‘Go-to People’ – for all issues concerning firearms?

Over the past decade, or so, we’ve had enough mass murders in the U.S. to spot some common ingredients:  (a) Perpetrator is an under-25 white male; (b) He is angry, isolated and/or socially challenged (often described in retrospect as ‘mentally disturbed’); and (c) The weapon of choice is an AR-15 (or equal), accompanied by high-capacity magazines.

Young men mature physically much faster than they mature mentally and emotionally.  A typical 18 to 20 Y.O. male physically looks like an adult, but just hasn’t attained the emotional and mental maturity that post-25 year old adults generally possess.

There is a ton of research which supports the notion that changes in cognitive abilities occurring in males between ages 18 and 25 are essentially a continued process of brain development that start during puberty.  At age 18, a young man is roughly halfway through the entire stage of development. The prefrontal cortex doesn’t have nearly the functional capacity at age 18 as it does at age 25.

It is unfortunate that Congress passed legislation in 1996 which effectively precludes the CDC from conducting research on the causes of gun violence (the Dickey Amendment).

There is some colloquial evidence that people who act out their Rambo fantasies are angry, isolated and/or socially challenged, and there may be a preventable linkage between male brain development and assault weapons, but until qualitative research is conducted, we really won’t know.

Meanwhile, there seem to be a couple of simple interventions which we could enact tomorrow that would put this issue on ‘pause’ until some qualitative research can be conducted:

  • Ban the manufacture, sale or possession of semi-automatic military-style assault weapons in the U.S.;
  • Ban the manufacture, sale or possession of magazines that can contain more than 10 rounds of ammunition, and outlaw devices like bump stocks that make weapons more deadly;
  • Institute universal background checks and close loopholes that let too many people slip through the cracks and purchase firearms despite being a threat to themselves or others;
  • No weapons for suspected terrorists, domestic abusers, or individuals convicted of hate crimes;
  • Impose a three-day waiting period for the purchase of all firearms, and raise the minimum age for buying those weapons to 21;
  • Institute a Gun Violence Restraining Order that allows law enforcement to confiscate weapons from individuals who are deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

These are common-sense solutions to help reduce gun violence in all communities across the U.S. – including accidents, suicides, domestic violence, mass shootings, and acts of terrorism. Most of these reforms are supported by a majority of Americans – not just Democrats or Republicans, but ALL Americans.

And, once we have obtained high-quality qualitative research on the causes of gun violence, our elected officials will be in a much better position to adapt and/or modify these interim interventions to reflect data-driven conclusions on the causes of gun violence in the U.S.

What are we waiting for?

Not a surprise that Speaker John Boehner has taken a very aggressive and harsh stand against the recent Iran Accord.

http://www.nbcnews.com/video/boehner-responds-to-obamas-remarks-on-iran-deal-485446211824

Boehner could be correct, although it would be a first for him.

Boehner has led the charge to spend untold fortunes — and has further wasted even more precious intellectual resources — fighting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare), all to no avail.

Each and every one of Boehner’s arguments on why the ACA would destroy the US economy has been refuted by facts — clear economic proof — which validate that we – as a nation – are on the right path. As recently as June, 19, 2015, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that repealing the ACA law would COST some $353 Billion over the next decade.

Now, he wants to waste more of our precious resources on another foolish boondoggle?

It seems that Speaker Boehner has modeled himself after the storied “Chicken Little” — focused entirely on those possible events which might cause the sky to fall, rather than on the inevitability of change, and how to best embrace the future.

It is no wonder the Republican Party is in such a state of confusion and disarray.

What, another Congressional Witch Hunt?

Why not just send the elected officials home from D.C, then drag a huge bag of money out onto the National Mall, and burn it?

That solution would accomplish much more, and cost much less, than this current circus John Boehner wants to convene.

Please: let’s not forget that John Boehner is a Congressman who was elected in 1990 to represent an obscure rural district in SW Ohio, having taken the seat from an incumbent child molester….

There really is something wrong with a governance model that has allowed Boehner to subsequently acquire so much power over the people of the United States — despite the reality that his Congressional District – the 8th District in Ohio – is comprised of just 725,000 people, roughly 0.0023% of the U.S. population.  And, this Congressional District looks nothing like the rest of the U.S.

It is 90% White, very blue collar, predominantly Republican, and quite conservative (not that there is anything wrong with that).

His district is not at all representative of the demographics of our citizenry, yet Mr. Boehner has somehow achieved the status of Chief Rocket Scientist (aka Speaker of the House), so he now has the power to pull the strings which may ultimately destroy our economy and take our country down.

We have a huge weakness in our governance model, and it is certainly not at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as some ultra-conservative characters might like us to believe.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on a CNN appearance in mid-February that support for President Barack Obama’s drone program was “very scary and worrisome” and he feared it could open a “Pandora’s box” about government’s power. 

Today’s decision by Sen. Paul — who was elected in 2010 with support from the Tea Party – to orchestrate a genuine filibuster focused on the potential for the Obama administration to use drones to attack an American on U.S. soil is not a shock.

 Scanning various news sources today, I almost concluded that Barack Obama invented the drone, and that he has been the unilateral champion of its use.  Paul went so far to say that, “Obama will be the executioner-in-chief if he sees fit.”

What seems to be missing from the news reports is that the first U.S. use of an unmanned Predator drone in a targeted killing took place over eleven years ago (February 2002) in Afghanistan, near the city of Khost.  In that case, CIA sources revealed at the time that the intended target was Osama bin Laden.  Journalists on the ground in Afghanistan learned from local Afghans that the dead men were unarmed civilians gathering scrap metal.

 Then-CIA Director Donald Rumsfeld explained: “A decision was made to fire the Hellfire missile. It was fired.”  – This information was primarily sourced from an article John Sifton wrote which appeared in a February 2012 edition of The Nation.

A Reuters story which ran in the NY Daily News on March 3, 2013 tells us:

“Tens of thousands of domestic drones already are in use nationwide, with more to come. They hover over Hollywood film sets and professional sports events. They track wildfires in Colorado, survey Kansas farm crops and vineyards in California.  They inspect miles of industrial pipeline and monitor wildlife, river temperatures and volcanic activity.  They also locate marijuana fields, reconstruct crime scenes and spot illegal immigrants breaching U.S. borders.

Increase of use in drones by law enforcement, movie studios, environmental organizations and the news media, comes as the U.S. government prepares to issue commercial drone permits in 2015. Many of those already flying do so without the proper permits. Currently, just 327 FAA-issued permits are active.”

Prior to his decision to filibuster today, Sen. Paul had publicly pushed the Commander in Chief to declare his position on the use of drones.  On February 21, Sen. Paul had said, “The question which I and many others have asked is not whether the administration has or intends to carry out drone strikes inside the United States, but whether it believes it has the authority to do so. This is an important distinction.”

In a March 4 letter to Sen. Paul, Attorney General Eric Holder said that such domestic use of drones is “entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur and one we hope no President will ever have to confront.”  Holder also said he couldn’t rule it out under an “extraordinary circumstance.”

Paul’s assertion that the administration has failed to provide sufficient assurances on the issue of drone usage is not universally supported among Republican legislators.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mi), chairman of the House intelligence committee said, “Any suggestion that the United States would use drone strikes against U.S. citizens in the United States is irresponsible.  Suggesting that such a thing is being contemplated provokes needless fear and detracts attention from the real threats facing the country.”

Certainly, as this saga unfolds new information will emerge, meanwhile, it seems to be ‘much ado about nothing’.

Sequestration Solution

February 24, 2013

Given Speaker John Boehner’s recent attacks on the executive office regarding federal budget cuts he believes are appropriate and necessary to bring Federal spending under control, I thought I would take a look at the most recent Federal budget to see what all of the commotion is about.

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that trying to read and/or understand the Federal budget is an almost impossible task.

I was able to find some detail that shows the budget for “Salaries and Expenses of the House of Representatives” is $1.25 Billon. Plus an additional $574 Million for “Members’ representational allowances, including Members “clerk hire, official expenses, and official mail.” Plus, hundreds of millions of additional dollars to fund: various committees; salaries and expenses of ‘officers and employees’; allowances and expenses; joint items; and more.

Although determining the full cost allocated to support the expenses of having an elected House of Representatives seems to be almost impossible, it was also not clear what effect – if any – sequestration might have on the members of Congress and their staffs.

We’ve certainly heard dire predictions of negative consequences regarding loss of services due to cuts to the FAA; Homeland Security; and Department of Defense.

If funding to support the bureaucracy of our elected officials in the House of Representatives and the Senate were interrupted and all of the elected officials and employees of the legislative branch were furloughed for a week, 2 weeks, even a month — would there be any negative consequences to our society?

If we need to incur some immediate spending curtailments, I say, let’s furlough the legislative branch! Let’s send Speaker Boehner home to Ohio for a month with no salary, no benefits and no staff. When he comes back in April, maybe he will be ready to talk Turkey!

A Letter to Hon. John Boehner

December 28, 2012

Hon. John Boehner
Office of the Speaker
H-232 The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Boehner:

I’ve been following the saga of ‘the fiscal cliff’ since the end of summer 2012.

It was made very clear to us outside the Beltway (commonly known as citizens, voters and taxpayers) that our elected officials in Congress would take no action until after the November elections.

As disappointing as that news was, it seemed reasonable and appropriate to many of us on the outside to expect that our elected officials would do some talking behind the scenes in preparation for a call to action after the election at which time our elected officials would work together in the best interest of the overall U.S. economy — business, commerce, education and the citizens of the United States.

Now – several months later and just a few days from the ‘tipping point’ a.k.a the ‘fiscal cliff’– we seem to have a continuation of the petty, partisan and puerile drama that has come to categorize our Congress following the national elections of 2010.

November 2010 marked the point in time when a number of conservative tea party candidates were elected to the House of Representatives. The infusion of passionate but neophyte tea party representatives — all of whom signed the Grover Norquist Pledge — precipitated your election as Speaker in January 2011, which coincidently seems to mark the beginning of extreme dysfunction in our nation’s capital.

I have listened to you and some of the ‘young rascals’ who were elected in 2010 under the tea party platform.

When I listen, I hear some really great sound bites, focused almost entirely on the federal government.

There is no one I’ve met who wouldn’t like to see smaller government and reduced government spending — sweetened by the magic elixir of reduced taxes.

The real problem seems to be: Government (as we see and interact with it from outside the Beltway) includes federal, state, county, local, schools and a vast number of entities which operate in the public sector as ‘quasi-government’ agencies.

As a citizen, voter and taxpayer in the U.S., I know I pay: federal income taxes; federal excise taxes; state income taxes; state sales taxes; county property taxes; county sales taxes; city property taxes; city sales taxes; city sewer taxes; city library taxes; and property taxes levied by my local school district. I can quantify the majority of those taxes: what I can’t quantify is the amount of other government and quasi-government fees and taxes I pay daily, weekly monthly or annually: highway and bridge tolls, parking fees, hotel occupancy fees, motor vehicle fees, MTA fees, license fees, daily use fees, and park access fees, most of which are invisible to me.

You and the ‘young rascals’ have some great rhetoric: What I don’t hear from you and your tea party cabal is dialogue, discussion, research or new ideas about re-engineering our overall government in the U.S. for enhanced efficiency and longer term sustainability.

Mr. Boehner: With your intractable and rigid focus on cutting spending at the margins and continued tax breaks for the ultra-rich, I think you and your tea party followers may be threatening the very essence of the United States and our economy as a going concern.

That thought leads me to believe that you and some (or all) of your tea party cabal may be guilty of treason because your actions are diametrically opposed to the best interests of my fellow citizens, voters and taxpayer of the United States of America.

It is my hope, Mr. Boehner, that come Monday, December 31, 2012, you and your followers will move away from treason to align with the majority of American citizens, businesses and American society to ensure a rational, sensible and sustainable solution to the ‘fiscal cliff’ dilemma which currently threatens our country.

Thank you in advance for considering my opinions, and hopefully, for adjusting your posture to a more inclusive and mainstream position.

Sincerly,

The Walrus
Mount Vernon, NY 10552